Chandrayaan-2 leaves Earth orbit, starts Moon journey

Image Credit: ISRO

Thirty-three days after its launch, India’s path-breaking lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2 finally began its week-long journey to the Moon, early Wednesday morning. After five orbit-raising manoeuvres within the Earth’s orbit, the spacecraft successfully completed its ‘Trans Lunar Insertion.’ 

The Insertion was achieved at 2.21 am on Wednesday, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). The Mission has now been placed on the Lunar Transfer Trajectory (LTT) and is scheduled to reach the Moon’s orbit on August 20. 

During the Insertion manoeuvre, “the spacecraft's liquid engine was fired for about 1,203 seconds. With this, Chandrayaan-2 entered the Lunar Transfer Trajectory. Earlier, the spacecraft’s orbit was progressively increased five times during July 23 to August 06, 2019,” informed Isro.

The health of the spacecraft is now being continuously monitored from the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru. This is with support from the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennas at Byalalu, near Bengaluru. 

Since its launch aboard GSLV Mk III-M1 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on July 22, all systems onboard Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft are performing normal, certified the space agency. 

Once Chandrayaan-2 approaches the Moon on August 20, the spacecraft's liquid engine will be fired again to insert the Mission into a lunar orbit. Four orbit manoeuvres will follow to insert the spacecraft into its final orbit passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about 100 km from the Moon’s surface.

Chandrayaan-2’s Orbiter will stay in the 100-km lunar orbit, while the Lander, Vikram is scheduled to make an extremely critical soft-landing on September 7. 

Vikram, Isro informed, will separate from the orbiter on September 2. “Two orbit manoeuvres will be performed on the lander before the initiation of powered descent to make a soft landing on the lunar surface on September 7.” 

A successful soft-landing will help India emerge as the fourth nation after the United States, the erstwhile Soviet Union and China to achieve this feat. But the country will be the first to land a spacecraft on the lunar South Pole. 

The Rover, Pragyaan will roll out of the Lander to probe the Moon’s surface for one lunar day, equivalent to 14 Earth days. Pragyaan’s task is cut out: To probe deeper for more data on the presence of water on the lunar surface, first indicated by Chandrayaan-1 in 2008. 

Equipped with eight scientific payloads, the Orbiter will revolve around the Moon for well over a year. Besides mapping the lunar surface in great detail, the Orbiter will also study the outer atmosphere, the exosphere of the Moon.  

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